Donald Trump speaks at the annual National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Ky. in 2016. The group is meeting in Atlanta this weekend. (TY WRIGHT/THE NEW YORK TIMES)
Photo: TY WRIGHT
Photo: TY WRIGHT

Opinion: Saving lives demands standing up to NRA’s agenda

The National Rifle Association’s annual convention will be in Atlanta this weekend, and so am I. I wouldn’t miss it.

Atlanta is my home. Like the majority of Atlanta’s residents, I am black. Our city helped birth the modern civil rights movement, and I am the daughter of a civil rights leader. And in the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., I also believe that in America, “we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes,” and that is only furthered by our weak gun laws and a culture of gun violence.

I have a unique lens on how the extreme priorities of the NRA’s leaders are dangerous for America, Atlanta and communities of color. Not quite five years ago, my only son was killed in the parking lot of a Florida gas station in a dispute over loud music. The bullet that killed my son also tore a hole in my heart.

While my family will never be the same, and I grieve for Jordan Davis every day, Jordan’s killing gave me a new purpose for my life: advocating for gun safety.

I will never watch my son graduate from high school or marry the love of his life. But I will always be his mother. Now, I am his voice. And I am determined to stand against the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda that puts American families – particularly families of color – at risk.

When Jordan was shot and killed, he was with his friends, doing normal teenager things. But they were black and Jordan’s killer was white. They were unarmed, while the killer was armed. And Jordan’s killer thought he had the right to use lethal force to break up a dispute over loud music – and he nearly got away with it because of policies supported by the NRA leadership’s allies in the Florida legislature.

Lucia McBath looks at artwork someone made with an image of her 17-year-old son Jordan Davis, who was fatally shot outside of a Florida convenience store in November 2012 for playing music too loud, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Marietta, Ga. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Here’s what I know about the gun lobby’s priorities.

The NRA’s extreme leadership is behind Stand Your Ground laws, which disproportionately affect communities of color. These laws perpetuate a “shoot first, ask questions later” culture that emboldened my son’s killer and nearly lost us justice for Jordan.

The NRA’s extreme leaders are also behind a push in Congress for “concealed carry reciprocity.” This is legislation that would make Americans less safe by forcing all states to recognize the policies of states with weaker standards — or no standards at all — for who can carry a concealed gun in public.

Under this policy, the weakest link will effectively become the law of the land, forcing all states to allow domestic abusers, convicted stalkers, people with violent histories and people who lack even the most basic gun safety training to carry concealed guns in public. Concealed carry reciprocity is a dream for the gun lobby lobbyists and a nightmare for public safety.

So this weekend, I am home in Atlanta to let the NRA’s leaders know that a dangerous agenda is not welcome here. This is not about a fear of gun owners. In fact, most gun owners – like most Americans — do not agree with many of the priorities of the NRA, which is no longer an organization for hunters and sportsmen. It has morphed into something more extreme– the lobbying arm for gun manufacturers that only cares about selling more guns.

Along with volunteers of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and gun violence survivors, I will never stop raising my voice to speak out against gun lobby priorities that endanger all Americans, particularly the ones who look like my beautiful son. He should be here with me. Instead, I’m here for him.

This battle is long and arduous, but advocates for gun safety will win it in the end.

I am here because I am Jordan’s mom and I will never stop standing up — and fighting back — for him.

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